The "by [hotel brand]" trend isn't going away anytime soon. But hotel companies that want to play in that "family of brands" space need to make sure every single one of those brands has the right marketing power behind them, and the right consumer perceptions and awareness.
Super 8, Days Inn, Ramada, Howard Johnson, Dolce, and Travelodge have a lot more in common than just being hotel brands.
Together, the franchises represent just some of the 20 hotel brands that form Wyndham Hotel Group . Now it’ll be that much easier for consumers, including loyalty customers, to identify the connection.
Twelve of Wyndham’s 20 hotel brands will now include a “by Wyndham” to their names, as part of a larger strategy on the company’s part to market its brands using the Wyndham name. The move comes as Wyndham’s parent looks to spin off the hotel group.
The brands that will have “by Wyndham” attached to their names are Super 8, Days Inn, Howard Johnson, Travelodge, AmericInn, Baymont, Ramada, Ramada Encore, Dolce, Dazzler, Esplendor, and Trademark. These brands range widely from economy brands like Super 8 and Days Inn to more upscale brands like Dolce, as well as a more upper midscale soft brand collection of independent hotels such as Trademark.
This move isn’t a totally new one for Wyndham, or for their hotel peers. The 12 updated name brands Wyndham announced will join other Wyndham brands such as Wingate, Microtel, Hawthorn Suites and TRYP brands which already use “by Wyndham” in their names.
Most recently, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) added “an IHG hotel” to the official name for its newest midscale hotel brand, Avid Hotels, which was a first for IHG. Other brands that have used a similar branding strategy include Homewood Suites by Hilton and Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott.
A Branding Opportunity, But Also a Potential Challenge
In total, 7,074 hotels in Wyndham’s global portfolio of 8,500 hotels — representing 84 percent of the company’s hotels — will be impacted by this most recent name change. Wyndham intends to begin the name change in North America first.
Updated brand names will begin to appear on Wyndham’s digital channels and third-party listings beginning on April 16, and the company anticipates the new names and signage to be fully updated and completed globally by December, 2022.
As parent company Wyndham Worldwide begins to prepare for its eventual spinoff of its hotel unit, the updated brand names, the company stated, will solidify the business’ evolution into a “pure-play hotel franchising and management company.”
“By Wyndham” also plays off the company’s Wyndham Rewards loyalty program, which now has 55 million members and has built itself a reputation for appealing to “everyday travelers,” many of whom stay in Wyndham’s numerous midscale and economy hotel brands.
Wyndham Worldwide CEO Stephen P. Holmes has often referred to Wyndham Rewards as the “blue thread” connecting all three of Wyndham’s current business units: hotels, timeshares, and vacation rentals. It’s clear with this move that emphasis and focus on that loyalty program will continue well after the spinoff is completed.
One potential challenge for Wyndham Hotel Group related to these brand name changes will be making sure consumer perception of its core Wyndham brand is flexible enough to apply as much to a more upscale brand like Dolce or Wyndham Grand as well as to more economy hotels such as Days Inn and Super 8.
As Skift noted when we spoke to Wyndham Hotel Group CEO Geoff Ballotti at the Skift Global Forum in 2017, there does seem to be a bit of consumer perception issue when it comes to Wyndham’s hotel brands. While some are household names such as Days Inn, Super 8, or Travelodge, they aren’t always necessarily thought of as “cool or sexy” brands in the hospitality space.
If Wyndham truly intends to double down on its core brand name, it will need to ensure that the brand can stand for more than just brands that operate in just the economy space, or any one hotel brand category.
Makarand Mody, an assistant professor of hospitality marketing at Boston University, said “the addition of the Wyndham name requires a careful management of customer expectations.
“The Wyndham brand is most closely associated with select service properties that are a notch above several of the brands that the endorsement is being added to, such as Super 8. So it is natural for customers to expect more, expect a scaled up experience than before, which is something that the brand may not necessarily want to provide.”
It’s also not clear whether Wyndham’s soon-to-be newest brand, La Quinta Inn & Suites, will also have the “by Wyndham” suffix attached to its brand name following the completion of that acquisition. It’s also assumed that the Knights Inn brand, which Wyndham recently agreed to sell to Red Lion Hotels Corporation, will not undergo a name change.
Consumer Trust That Leads to Bookings
“In a world with thousands of hotel brands available, guests look to names they trust, like Wyndham, which they know means a quality experience and exceptional service,” Lisa Checchio, Wyndham’s senior vice president of global brands, said in a statement. “Putting that powerful name on the front door drives trial and builds tremendous awareness. Think of how many potential guests drive past our signs: 80 percent of the U.S. population is within a 10-mile radius of one of our hotels, and between our scale and our broad geographic reach, our signs generate more than 500 billion roadside impressions in the United States alone.”
Wyndham also cited research that says nearly 45 percent of consumers “feel better” about an endorsed brand, and almost one-third expect a better-quality experience from endorsed brands, and it said it’s seen this work for its other “by Wyndham” brands such as Wingate and Microtel. The addition of “by Wyndham” in 2007 to the Wingate name, the company noted, significantly increased its brand awareness. Microtel, it also pointed out, has seen a steady increase in its revenue per available room (RevPAR) performance compared to hotel industry benchmarks since it added “by Wyndham” to its name.
UPDATED: This story was updated to include comments from Makarand Mody, an assistant professor of hospitality marketing at Boston University.
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Photo credit: The Wyndham Wyzard, the mascot for the Wyndham Rewards program, in a promotional still for Super 8 hotels. Beginning today, Super 8 and 11 other Wyndham hotel brands are updating their names to include the suffix "by Wyndham." Wyndham Hotel Group / Wyndham Worldwide